Sick of shoveling the snow off your sidewalk? Well, the good folks of 1925 have a brilliant idea for you: just set it all on fire.

The cover of the January 1925 issue of Science and Invention magazine included the illustration above, proposing a new way to minimize the drudgery of snow shoveling. The accompanying article told of Harry E. Hale, a man who devised the idea for placing calcium carbide in the snow and just putting a flame to it.

The magazine even included plans for a snow burner device that would help distribute the calcium carbide, which when exposed to water and a flame is quite combustible.


But be careful, because surprisingly, putting a flame to everything involves some risks — like accidentally setting your house on fire. Or even yourself.

From the magazine:


Great care must be exercised in sprinkling calcium carbide upon snow, so that when the gas is evolved and ignited, it will not set fire to shrubbery, trees or the house itself. Under no conditions should such a snow remover be used when a gale is blowing, and the individual drawing the mechanism over the road should always see to it that he heads into any slight breeze which may be blowing, so that his own clothes will not be ignited.

Got all that? Don't use this new device in areas that may have a slight breeze or trees or humans or houses nearby.

Aside from the obvious risks of playing with fire, there are plenty of reasons this futuristic winter-battling idea didn't take off. As someone who's done his fair share of shoveling (I'm originally from Minnesota, but currently live in snow-free Los Angeles) I must say that there's one obvious flaw to this scheme: the user has to walk in the deep snow while the fire burns behind him. Who wants to trudge through a foot of snow while dragging a flame-plow?

Setting fire to snow was a surprisingly common idea in the 20th century. But the risks and tremendous fuel expense have always seemed to outweigh the benefits. Except in Russia anyways, where they've sometimes used Klimov VK-1 engines from Mig-15 planes to remove snow on runways and even melt ice and snow on commercial jets.

If you do decide to try out this incredibly dangerous idea, be sure to have a Dyson vacuum on hand, just like these two genius blokes who thought starting a fire in their patio and putting it out with a vacuum was a great idea.

Images: Scanned from the January 1925 issue of Science and Invention magazine